In the last week, fires have ravaged an Irving church, and child care center, as well as a number of residences. None of these fires has been directly linked to the currently cold snap.
Often a change in the use of fuels and appliances to warm rooms is blamed for an increase in fires, however, this has not been the case in our community. The Irving fires have had several random causes, according to Irving Fire Department Fire Marshal Derek Austin.
“I have been doing this job for 18 years and in my opinion fires come in waves,” Austin said. “You will have a long stretch where there aren’t any fires, and then you will have a patch of fires. It is just randomness.
“On top of that, it is winter time and people are using space heaters and putting their electrical systems under a greater load than they normally would. When it stays below freezing for two days, people also start using creative means of heat. I worked a fire in the past where a guy was using his barbeque to stay warm, and a fire was caused by that. There are those strange situations.
“Here in Irving over the last few days, we have put out quite a few fires,” Austin said. “Most of them so far have not been related to weather conditions or the over doing over of electrical systems. We had a fire last night [Tuesday] that it was most likely caused by a candle. This fire could have happened in the middle of summer. We tend to have a lot of house fires caused by candles. It is an open flame. People will light a candle and then walk away from it and forget that they lit it.”
During the Christmas holiday, a Sunday night fire at a two-story home in the 900 block of Rindie Street was also not caused by the weather.
“I have seen fires recently where the fire was caused by the lights on the Christmas tree shorting,” Austin said. “That could have happened if it was 50 or 60 degrees outside. It doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with these colder temperatures we have been having. We have been having odd reasons for fire occurrences recently.”
December 28 a fire caused by an electric short destroyed the sanctuary at the Bear Creek Community Church on Finley Road.
“We had the church fire that it appears was caused by an electrical short,” Austin said. “It could have been they had the heat running too long. They have weak wiring, because it is an older church. The fire scene made such a huge mess that we aren’t sure, but that is what it looks like.”
There was another fire on Jan. 1 at a home. At first the Irving Fire Department was called to investigate a gas odor near West Northgate Drive and North O’Connor Road. Then early on Monday morning there was an explosion, thus another example of a fire not related to the cold weather.
“Obviously that had nothing to do with the weather, it was just a gas leak,” Austin said. “They were out there making the repair, and then unfortunately, we had an explosion.”
On Jan. 3, an estimated 44 children were evacuated to a nearby funeral home after their daycare center caught fire.
“It just seems totally random really,” Austin said. “You never know what you are going to get from one day to the next.”
Austin warns against using space heaters, because if not used properly they could easily cause a fire.
“There have been a lot of fires around the nation that have been caused by unsafe means of heat,” Austin said. “I would recommend no one use space heaters unless they absolutely have to. It is not that they are manufactured in an unsafe way, it is that you have to follow the instructions. A lot of the space heaters are very specific in where you can place them. People don’t pay attention to the fact that there are combustibles all around, and then they put their space heaters right by there.”